Puddle Coach Column ~ Q&A / Forgiveness: Guilt, Anger, and Sadness after the death of a parent

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Puddle Coach Column, by Patrice Swenson                                                                                                                     Have a question for the Puddle Coach? Submit here


Dear Puddle Coach,                                                                                                                                                                   Patrice Swenson: Puddle CoachDescription: Description: Description: http://www.rainbowinthepuddle.com/sites/default/files/images/Life%20Coach%20Pic%20for%20Business%20Card_2.jpg

My father passed away 3 years ago and I've been struggling with mixed emotions ever since. He and I weren't real close because it seemed like no matter what I said or did, it was wrong and it was judged. I felt like he never had anything nice or good to say to me or support to give. After a while I just didn't want to see him anymore. Through the years I did see him, and my mother, but it was difficult to say the least. Difficult because I felt like an actress in my own life, always pretending I was fine when inside I was hurting. Long story short, I guess I hated conflict so much that I'd do just about anything to avoid it at all costs. The tension when I'd visit was always there, like an elephant in the room, but nobody talked about it. I always did my best to make it seem as if everything was ok; of course everything was not ok. Now he's gone and I'm struggling because on one hand, I want that one more conversation, I want to have him listen to me, I want to tell him that he hurt me. I want to hear an apology for how he treated me all those years, yet I know I should be sad that he passed on, and I feel a mixture of guilt, anger and of there is sadness too, that I can't forgive him. Despite all of those emotions, I'm somehow also sad that he's gone; maybe down deep I wished one day we'd have a better relationship, the kind most people want with a parent' someone that's proud of you and supports you. I guess it's too late now. I don't quite know how to make this go away. I've been in therapy and I'm still going, but it's just still there.   

Can't Forgive Him ~

Dear Can't Forgive Him,  

Your struggle comes through in your writing voice; you are being very courageous to face your feelings and you're taking steps toward healing by talking with a therapist. It's not always easy to forgive and it can be much more difficult when the other person is no longer available to us in a physical form. It sounds like your struggle has been going on for a long time. What is it that you would most like to feel going forward? Saddness is often related to living in the past, which makes it difficult to enjoy the now or embrace the possibilities evolving going forward. One of the best things I've ever heard about forgiveness, is that it simply means, I am unwilling to carry this burden anymore. It doesn't mean that what happened was ok, it just means you are letting go of something that is weighing you down. Do you want to hang on to the pain or let it go? If you want to let it go it helps to know that the way people treat you is a reflection of their own struggles, and is a measurement of their burdens, not yours. You said that you can't forgive your dad; what is your definition of forgiveness? Could you forgive, if you believed it was about releasing a burden? 

We tend to generate pain by the stories that play in our heads and the more often we play the story, the more power it gains. Do you have any other memories or experiences you might focus on playing and replacing these old painful tapes in your head with new joyful ones? Rewiring those connections is possible. You can't change what's happened, you can only change how you perceive, and respond to what happened. If you re-frame any situation, you can turn pain into compassion and compassion will set you free. What can you do starting today that would help you re-frame the past and focus on the now? Is holding onto the pain, a way of holding onto your dad? Do you want to let go? Sometimes looking up quotes about what it is that you're struggling with can really help; here's one that hit home for me once and maybe it will hit home for you: "Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy". I'm sure your dad is not exactly the enemy, but you get the point! I admire the courage it took to write about this situation; if you want to attend one of my workshops on forgiveness, please fill out a contact form 


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